Skip to main content

Is bariatric surgery right for you?

reviewed 10/25/2018

Bariatric surgery

Is it right for you?

Eat less, digest less and weigh less: Those are the promises of bariatric surgery. But this seemingly simple solution isn't right for everyone. This tool is designed to help you understand—and make smart decisions about—two types of bariatric surgery: gastric sleeve and gastric bypass.

Are you obese?

If you answered "yes." Obesity is generally defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. To be a good candidate for bariatric surgery, you have to have a BMI of 40 or higher or you need to have other health concerns.

If you answered "no." Bariatric surgery is recommended only for people who are obese. If you have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher, you may be a good candidate for surgery. If your BMI is lower than 40, you may still be a good candidate, depending on other health factors.

Do you have heart disease, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes or another health issue your doctor says is related to your weight?

If you answered "yes." If your BMI is 30 or higher, your doctor might consider bariatric surgery to help you address these health issues.

If you answered "no." Unless your BMI is 40 or higher, you may want to discuss other weight-loss options with your doctor.

With the help of your doctor, have you explored other weight-loss options, such as lifestyle changes or medications?

If you answered "yes." If you and your doctor aren't seeing results with nonsurgical weight-loss options, it might be time to discuss bariatric surgery's benefits. Bear in mind: You might still need to follow a special diet to prepare for surgery.

If you answered "no." Prescription medications and doctor-developed diet plans could help you lose weight without the risks that come with surgery. Explore these ideas with your doctor, and visit the Weight Management health topic center for more articles and assessments.

Bariatric surgery comes with a variety of benefits—in addition to weight loss. Do you know what those benefits are?

If you answered "yes." Great! But just to recap, surgery could help you see improvements in a variety of health issues, such as:

  • High blood pressure.
  • Knee and hip pain.
  • Sleep apnea.
  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • Unhealthy cholesterol levels.
  • Urinary incontinence.

If you answered "no." Surgery could help ease a variety of health issues, such as:

  • High blood pressure.
  • Knee and hip pain.
  • Sleep apnea.
  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • Unhealthy cholesterol levels.
  • Urinary incontinence.

Do you know what the risks of bariatric surgery are?

If you answered "yes." Just to be sure—possible risks of bariatric surgery include:

  • Anemia.
  • Bleeding.
  • Blood clots.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Gallstones.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Stomach or small intestine leaks.

If you answered "no." It's important to understand the risks of any surgery you're considering. Possible risks of bariatric surgery include:

  • Anemia.
  • Bleeding.
  • Blood clots.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Gallstones.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Stomach or small intestine leaks.

Are you planning to use health insurance to pay for surgery—and do you know how much you'll be asked to pay?

If you answered "yes." Great! Talking with your carrier and getting an estimate in advance (if possible) can help you understand your financial obligations.

If you answered "no." Out-of-pocket costs for bariatric surgery can add up, even with insurance. You may have insurance copayments to make, and you may need additional surgeries to address loose skin. Those additional surgeries may not be covered. Consider calling your insurance company and asking about your coverage.

Have you talked with your doctor about lifestyle changes you'll need to make after surgery?

If you answered "yes." The more you know before surgery, the better prepared you'll be. And just to recap, after surgery you'll need to:

  • Eat several small meals each day (rather than two or three large ones).
  • Chew each bite carefully, to avoid pain or feelings of fullness.
  • Avoid drinking fluids while you're eating.
  • Take daily vitamins and minerals your doctor prescribes.

If you answered "no." Bariatric surgery changes the shape and size of your digestive tract. As a result, you'll need to change the way you eat after surgery.

After surgery you'll need to:

  • Eat several small meals each day (rather than two or three large ones).
  • Chew each bite carefully, to avoid pain or feelings of fullness.
  • Avoid drinking fluids while you're eating.
  • Take daily vitamins and minerals your doctor prescribes.

Your doctor can tell you more about why these changes are so important.

Results

Talk with your doctor about your results, and be sure to ask any questions that came up in this assessment. Together, you can decide what the right next step is for you.

Sources: American Diabetes Association; American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery; National Institutes of Health; UpToDate

Related stories

Health e-newsletter

Sign up for weekly health news, delivered directly to your inbox.